back to article XP guru to developers: 'Shape up'

Kent Beck, agile programming guru, author, and co-creator of Extreme Programming (XP) has ordered developers to pay attention to broad trends and to shape up socially. "Historically, we have been the wizards," Beck told the QCon Conference in San Francisco, California. "We could talk, act, and dress funny. We were excused for …


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  1. Gordon Fecyk

    How about shaping up your code while you're at it?

    I'm amazed at what passes for "finished" applications these days.

    Nothing developed for the mainstream is really "finished" and almost always requires one visit to the Internet for updates. Usually this comes after early adopters buy the product and then moan about how it's busted.

    It's easy to blame Microsoft for this, but with only one real bug found in Vista over two months (see "Vista's Long Good-bye" elsewhere in El-Reg) you have to admit there are far worse software developers out there. Some of these developers write for accountants (Sage, Intuit) who value accuracy, safety, privacy and realiability.

    And you'll need to shape up your lawyers, too. Blame those leeches for including license agreements indemnifying developers for their shoddy work. "If our applications eats your tax return, you agree that it's not our fault." Bullocks.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kent Beck grows up...

    "People are looking for partners who deliver when promised, and at a reasonable and transparent price. " - So not like the original XP project which never delivered and the book read more like a bad coming of age movie for slow developers(in many senses of the word).

  3. Arnold Lieberman
    Gates Halo

    That's bullshit

    If anything, there are more idiots using computers now. Sad to say, there appear to be more idiots programming them as well! At least, that's the impression I get from observing the quality of CVs passing my desk (and that of my boss).

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ok then

    Working as a programmer (this may sound arrogant), with the increased number of so-called "knowledgable" users, my job is becoming more and more difficult.

    The users honestly think they know more, or dare I say, could do better at my job than me, even though that might not be the case.

    A certain amount of respect must still be given, the average user may know how to program a computing, operate excel or what have you but they might not know how to do any of these things very well, or know the best method of accomplishing a task quickly.

    Programmers can make mistakes, on even tasks that on the face look simple but they could be exceptionally complicated. It doesn't help matters when everybody thinks they know how to do it, and the client cannot understand why it isn't a simple solution.

    I've found that with alot of my friends in the industry that this is mirrored in how they are treated, even for bigger companies, they are treated badly and with little real understand of what it is they have to do. The average user today may know more about computers than they ever did, but there is still a deep level of understanding about programming that is still absent.

    Where I came from, it is understood that programming is essentially a creative task, accomplished by creative people, and I really think that the business world doesn't accept this, or care to acknowledge that the process is of this nature. constantly trying to formalize and standardize programming without understanding this is a futile task.

  5. Martin Owens
    IT Angle

    Confused, Much.

    OK that was the weirdest LSD trip based on programming methods. This guy (or the way it was reported) is not very good at articulating what he means.

    And as for the socially pardonable actions; I expect people to treat me with respect weather or not I'm wearing a watsit dust covered t-shirt depicting the latest xkcd. So if he's asking me to wear a suit he can shove it where the sun don't shine, mister.

    No one should be coerced into acting in particular ways just to please pointy haired bosses and their no-hope share holders.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are you serious?

    "that kind of social behavior won't cut it anymore"

    Some one should have told that to Google

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    pot kettle overflow

    "We could talk, act, and dress funny. We were excused for socially inappropriate behavior:"


    "I'm not on chemo; it's just a Halloween costume gone wrong"

  8. Kurt Guntheroth

    shaping up code...

    That's XP's fault. Release your code the second some feature's done and then update it once a week so it will earn value right from the start. Anyone in agile development heard that line? What a stinker for the user. Then of course you have vendors who want to have a "relationship" with you that on one hands requires you to accept a shrinkwrap license, and on the other hand requires you to disclose your personal info and net address in exchange for an "update".

    Comes the day, an app that is stable and complete from first release, doesn't require an internet connection, and doesn't invade your privacy will be your app of choice, as a user if not as a marketing slimeball.

  9. Daniel B.

    Social dressing

    "So if he's asking me to wear a suit he can shove it where the sun don't shine, mister."

    I second that. I've only used suits for VIP meetings, or job interviews. Once I got the job though, I unleash my lax dress code. Even though working at a bank does require some kind of dress code, I still don't use a suit.

    I still would like to wear T-shirts like those saying "I AM ROOT", "cd /pub; more beer", or even wear my goats/xkcd t-shirts. (I know I'd get chuckles if I brought the "sudo make me a sandwich" one, at least.)

  10. Leo Maxwell

    so, a dress code for the socially dysfunctional

    I work in a suit.

    Having said that, it amuses me that many of my customers are impressed by a company director who "gets his hands dirty".

    In my experience, the people with a real dress code problem wear jeans and t-shirts.

    If you have a dress code problem, it is your problem.

    I wear my uniform for my customer's sake.

    I was brought as part of a generation whose dads wore their best suit on sunday to the "club", despite the fact that my suit was my works overall.

    I can wear what I like, but I find that the jeans brigade sneer at anything but the latest brand.

    Jeans and t-shirt is as much a uniform as a suit, often more so.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Leave the coders alone

    There is no point in making programmers play dress up and act like little business retards (grade inflated business school losers and corporate deadwood) if they want to wear ties fine, it won't make the customers any happier, only good software will do that. Try to understand unlike other parts of this business there is an end game to development thats when you roust your coders and fire them if they haven't done their jobs.People who want all monkeys to dress this way are the kind of people who if they were canned tomorrow no one would notice because they don't really produce anything window dressing and noise makers fuck em.

  12. Chris

    Reality Check

    Reality Check - you where what the customer wants, or you don't work there. I used to wear jeans a couple/three days a week, as I got tired of ripping expensive pants climbing under/over/through datacentres trying to correct and troubleshoot issues. Now? Jeans are more expensive. Does it make it look more professional not to wear jeans? You betcha. Does the customer ever see us? Very rarely. But it is more professional within the team itself, and can help with some baseline perceptions. As one of the previous commenters stated, it is just a uniform, either way. Of course, finding slacks OR jeans that aren't of the latest styles is becoming harder....

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: "Jeans and t-shirt is as much a uniform as a suit"

    Bull. Jeans and a T-shirt are hard-wearing, cheap, comfortable and convenient, and I don't know which 'jeans brigade' you're talking about - I have never experienced any pressure to be wearing newer or more fashionable jeans.

    Many software people go days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months on end without dealing directly with a customer face to face; I last saw one nearly a month ago I think. I don't see why I should sit here in relatively expensive, impractical and uncomfortable clothes on most days, when nobody sees me but others on my team, or our immediate superiors.

    Ironing is an expense and an inconvenience. If it wasn't for shirts, I would never do it. Therefore, for me (and a lot of programmers) ironing is essentially unpaid overtime and adds no value, as the lean zealots would put it, and the elimination of 'smart' work clothes would improve my quality of life.

    Suits and shirts are about posturing, about conveying a certain impression when you have nothing concrete to offer. I resent them, and people who voluntarily wear them.

  14. Curtis W. Rendon

    @Reality Check

    I only wear what my customer wants if she's paying me to take it off.

    I'm a programmer, not a stripper.

    And my customers are very much aware that they want the old hippy that's interested in them, not the suck up that wants to stick 'em for his/her $1000. suits.

  15. Jon Green
    Thumb Up

    Remember who's paying

    I'm speaking here as a twenty+ year veteran of the software development business, and -- yes -- I wear jeans (and a smart shirt) to work. I'm now a CTO-level consultant, and also CEO of a set-top box manufacturer.

    Although, as Martin comments, Beck wasn't articulating himself too well, Beck has a very good point. Software developers have for a very long time been treated as a species apart: strange, feral creatures that ingest caffeine and extrude code, and operate according to their own lights.

    It's suited the developers very well. But it's also insulated them from the most salient fact of their employment: that they're paid to make money for their employers. It's great to feel the aesthetics of the code innately, but if you're spending all day recoding a member function to be blisteringly fast, just because it "looked wrong", and the change makes no impact on the product, you've just sneaked a day's paid holiday.

    The jeans-and-scruffy-T-shirt "dress code" doesn't encourage programmers to think business. Unfortunate, since it's business that's paying their wages, and reasonably expects that their every working action is directed towards increasing value in the product.

    Ask the average programmer what are the market drivers for the product they're working on, and you'll probably get a blank stare. ("Why do I need to know that?") Yet they are expected to be working towards satisfying those needs. This is a dangerous disconnect, because developers are keenly intelligent people, on the whole, and if they understand the business model, have exposure to the end users, and are (in short) brought into the business, they can contribute massively to its profitability, and direct their own efforts more accurately towards a better product, and a healthier company.

    But that requires a shift from both sides. Senior managers need to stop treating developers like quarantine victims; developers need in turn to stop treating work like play. Take a look at an outsourcing centre in India, and you'll see those principles at work. We, in the Western Hemisphere, need to learn those lessons, get a smarter (in both senses) attitude, and get down to work -- whilst there's still work to be had.

  16. Gordon Fecyk

    @shaping up code... so this is the Internet's fault?

    "Comes the day, an app that is stable and complete from first release, doesn't require an internet connection, and doesn't invade your privacy will be your app of choice, as a user if not as a marketing slimeball."

    We used to have this. We really used to have apps that were stable (enough) and complete from the first release, didn't require Internet connections (no Internet, no connection) and didn't invade your privacy. This ended some time after 1996.

    Is it a coincidence that John McAfee's fortunes began with the use (or exploitation?) of the Internet as a pipeline for updates?

    So it's the Internet's fault. It's the Internet's fault that programmers have poor dress codes (coding from home?), that bosses release undertested garbage ("We'll release bugfixes later"), that marketers exploit it for "customer service" ("I wonder what else our customer does, they sure aren't filling in those survey cards anymore").

    Or maybe we're all lazy and have relied on the Net to do what we're supposed to be paid to do.

    I suppose as programmers and as IT supposed-professionals we should start with ourselves. And this is one pot scraping the burns off himself before calling the kettles black.

  17. Kent Beck

    There's more to the story

    If you'd like to hear what I said verbatim, I believe that InfoQ will be posting a video of the talk.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This is hilarious. I can't believe the anger and vitriol being spouted here at the mere suggestion that you should look appropriately smart when going to work.

    And to the person who thinks "ironing is essentially unpaid overtime": you should really shape up and stop expecting the whole world to wipe your arse for you.

  19. krek


    Every time I have worked at a job with a actual uniform, it was provided at no charge to me. I will wear what I want, if my employer has specific needs with regards to dress/uniform they better be prepared to pay for the expense.

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